Locally living

We are living on a single income. My husband returned to school last fall after 16 years serving in the military. Needless to say it hasn’t been easy, but it is much better seeing him every day while being broke, than being frivolous without him. So this has been our first summer off together as a family. We have been blessed to travel a variety of places with family, but now that summer is winding down, we are staying local.

Our next adventure is A Day Out with Thomas the Train at Crossroads Village on August 18. Thomas comes once a year to one of our favorite Genesee County Parks, but we’ve never been to see him. We seem to be out of town during the 16-18 and 23-25 each summer, but this year we have made a point to stay local, and keep our dollars locally circulating. Speaking of finances, Thomas can become a costly event depending on the size of your family, so here are a few things the five of us are planning to do within the confines of our newly-tightened, newborn baby #3, budget:

A. Pack a lunch! Many park goers are not aware, but you can take a picnic into Crossroads Village, as long as you keep food and beverage within the picnic area (to the left of the entrance for Thomas). You may choose to pack a cooler and keep it in your vehicle, or cover it at the picnic area so it is not bothered. This can save your family money and time on a crowded day! It may also allot for extras like yummy purchases of old fashioned candy from the General Store, or tickets to board the Genesee Belle for a family river ride.
B. Download a map from http://geneseecountyparks.org/pages/VillageMap to share with your family. We have decided to allow our 2 oldest to choose 3 places/events they wish to see. Each. That means we will not be wandering lost upon arrival looking for what to do, which could amount to time spent, and impulsive purchases. If the kids are aware of what they can and cannot do once at the Village, then the parents may be more apt to stick with their budgetary guidelines. As a side note, our kids have decided to ride both the carousel and ferris wheel ($1.25 for 1 ticket or 4 for $4), visit the inflatables station, bubble station, see Bob the Builder perform and meet him afterwards, as well as ride the extended 40 minute train. Now this may change once they see the other events happening in the park, but at least we are starting with a plan and may learn a little about decision making and flexibility along the way.
C. Take bottled water inside your diaper bag/purse/backpack for the older kids. A small snack of fruit or tail mix might fit also.
D. Set a family budget ahead of time. Talk with your partner. Discuss the options. Write it down. And stick to it! Sure your kids are going to ask for many things, but try to promote the concept of experience over the idea of stuff. This experience with Thomas is going to be one of the best in their young lives! Take a picture of them with Sir Topham Hatt or Bob the Builder, and then print it when you get home. Immediately or you will get too busy and forget. Then put it in a frame and give to them as a gift to recall the experience. It will be a token that is priceless.
E. Understand that your ticket covers EVERY event aside from lunch, souvenirs, and the mainstay rides at Crossroads. Temporary tattoos, inflatable fun, bubbles galore, meet and greets, the works!

With those things in mind, check out the Genesee County Parks FAQs about A Day Out with Thomas at http://geneseecountyparks.org/dowt/faq.html. We are also going to the library to research the book series that Thomas actually stems from called the Railway Series! It will get our kids even more excited for our trip in a few weeks. I will share what worked well and what didn’t for those of you who plan on going the following weekend (Aug. 23-25). Maybe we will see you there! All aboard!

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